By Shamsi Saadati, Originally published in NCR-Iran.org, 12th November 2021
On Friday, the third session of Hamid Noury’s trial in Albania was held. Noury is an Iranian prison official who had participated in the 1988 massacre of prisoners. Today, Asghar Mehdizadeh, one of the plaintiffs, testified in the District Court of Durres, Albania.
Noury was detained in 2019 by the Swedish authorities, and his trial began in 2021 in Sweden. After 34 sessions, the trial location was transferred to Albania per the prosecutor’s request since thousands of members of the Mujahedin-e Khalq (MEK) reside in Ashraf 3, Albania. The MEK supporters and members form the majority of over 30,000 martyrs of the 1988 massacre.
“I was arrested in 1982,” Mehdizadeh said. He was in prison for nearly 13 years. Mehdizadeh is one of the direct witnesses of the 1988 massacre.
According to Mehdizadeh, he first saw Noury, then known as Abbasi, in 1986. “My family lived in a village in Sume’esara. I was in Gohardasht prison in Karaj,” he said, adding that his family had difficulties making the 350-kilometer trip to visit him.
“I requested to be transferred to the city of Rasht. When I talked to Hamid Abbasi [Noury] about this, he said you are still holding your position and describing your sentencing as supporting [the MEK]. Until you start cooperating with us, there will be no transfer. So, he rejected my request, and I returned to the ward,” Mehdizadeh added.
Noury is notorious as a cold-blooded torturer. Mehdizadeh had seen him torturing prisoners. “One day in the winter, we saw [Hamid Noury] from the window. He was taking a number of the younger inmates to the courtyard, forcing them to crawl on the ground in that cold. When I saw this scene along with a number of other prisoners from the window, we saw [Noury] and a prison guard named ‘Majid Lore’ punishing those young inmates,” Mehdizadeh recalled during the Friday’s session.
While underlining that he witnessed the regime’s atrocities since 1979, Mehdizadeh shared some harrowing accounts of the 1988 massacre and the events prior to this crime against humanity.
“On July 27, 1988, the prison guards took us to the courtyard. After we returned, they ordered all of us to put on blindfolds and to exit our sections,” he said. “I saw Hamid Abbasi [Noury] sitting behind a small desk, and when I reached the desk, he started asking me questions. One of the questions was about my sentence. When I said, I am a MEK supporter, in contrast to the past when he would curse and start beating me, this time he said nothing.”
“When we returned to our section of the prison , we were all asking questions about why they were treating us like this?” he added.
“The guards took away our television on July 28. We also saw an armed guard who checked the prison yard. On July 28, and 29, we were preparing ourselves for family visits, when a guard came and said you are not allowed to have visits or purchase anything from the prison shop,” Mehdizadeh said, adding they were baffled about the origins of these actions.
“Around 11 am, the guards called two prisoners and took them away. We were worried that they were being taken to solitary confinement or for execution” he said.
“Around noon I saw from the window that Davoud Lashgari [another torturer] was taking five blindfolded prisons to [unknown place] they went to the bathroom, and carry out their wudhu ritual, [the washing before Islamic prayers.] They were joking and embracing each other,” Mehdizadeh said.
“One them was tall and broad-shouldered. When I saw him, I broke into tears because I knew him. It was Mahsheed Razaghi, and we used to be in ward 19 together,” Mehdizadeh said.
Mahsheed Razaghi was a member of the Iranian national soccer team. He was a meli-kesh, a term political prisoners used to describe those whose sentences were finished but were kept in prison.
“I saw them taking [prisoners] to a warehouse. We were wondering what they would do to them. Would they be tortured or executed? After around an hour I saw 20 guards coming out of that warehouse, including Abbasi [Noury] and Lashgari,” Mehdizadeh testified.
“They were saying these are Monafeghs [hypocrites, the term Iran’s regime uses to refer to the MEK], all of them must be executed,” Mehdizadeh added.
Mehdizadeh also testified that Mahsheed Razaghi’s brother was executed in July and Mahsheed was under torture for a month.
“About and hour later, I saw ten more blindfolded prisoners who went through the same process by Noury and Lashgari. They embraced each other and went to the warehouse, where others had gone before them.”
“Until that night, I saw around 19 or 20 people being taken into the building. At night, the guards brought out their dead bodies and carried them away with a car,” Mehdizadeh said. “That night we were all waiting for the guards to call us.”
“On Sunday, Lashgari came and told us to put on our blindfolds and go outside the cell. There the guards had formed a human tunnel, and as we passed the tunnel they start beating us asking ‘What is your crime?’” Mehdizadeh said.
“When they asked Mohsen Karim Nejad his crime, he said in a loud voice, ‘Supporter of the MEK!’ After that, Hamid Abbasi [Noury] and another guard pulled him out of the line. We never saw him again,” Mehdizadeh said.
“They took us then to a larger room. Lashgari read the names of 13 prisoners, including me and took us outside. When we went out, Hamid Abbasi [Noury] took us to the ‘Death Corridor,’” Mehdizadeh said.
The hallway, later became as the “Death Corridor” was where prisoners were kept before meeting the so-called “Death Commission,” a four-membered committee tasked with identifying the loyal MEK supporters and sending them to the gallows. These “Death Commissions,” across Iran, implemented a fatwa by the regime’s then-Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini. Based on Khomeini’s fatwa, all the MEK supporters who would refuse to disavow from their ideals should be “immediately executed.”
“From August 4 to August 8, I was in the Death Corridor,” Mehdizadeh said. “And every day, I witnessed 15 groups of 10-15 prisoners being taken to the ‘Death Hall.’”
The Death Hall was the same large warehouse where Mehdizadeh and other prisoners saw that prison authorities took those who were supposed to be executed there. As one group of prisoners was hanged, the prison authorities forced the others to watch until their own time came.
“On August 8, I was in solitary confinement when Mohammad Moghiseh [aka Nasserian], Pourmohammadi, Noury, and several others entered my cell. When they opened my cell, Nasserian started swearing at me and said, this is a monafegh who is still firm in his support [for the MEK],” Mehdizadeh said.
“They took me out of the cell and through several hallways and rooms. They took a brief pause to torture me in one of the rooms. In one of the hallways, I saw a row of bags on which it read, ‘We’re gone. Send our regards to the MEK,’” Mehdizadeh said while breaking into tears.
“They took me to the bathroom and tortured me. I passed out in the bathroom. When I regained consciousness a few hours later, I could barely move,” Mehdizadeh said. “I crawled out of the bathroom and found a window to look outside.”
“Therre was another prisoner in the neighboring cell. I introduced myself to him. He said his name was Hadi Mohammad Nejad. Four of his relatives, including three of his brothers and a sister-in-law, had been executed by the regime,” Mehdizadeh said.
“When I saw the executions, I did not accept the proposal,” Mohammad Nejad told Mehdizadeh. “They took me into the Death Hall. From under the blindfold, I could see the bodies of the dead. One of the guards removed my blindfold. I saw a stage on which twelve MEK supporters were standing on chairs with nooses around their necks. The guards were dragging the dead bodies out of the building. Davood Lashgari, Nasserian, and Hamid Abbasi [Noury] were on the stage. The MEK supporters started to chant slogans such as ‘Long live freedom,’ ‘Long live Rajavi,’ ‘Death to Khomeini.’ The guards started pulling the chairs from under their feet.”
“The next morning, I was taken to the death hall,” Mehdizadeh said. “I asked a prisoner near me what is going on here? He said, ‘Is it your first time?’ I said yes. He said, ‘Then they’ll take you to the Death Hall to see the executions.’”
An hour later, a guard came out of the Death Hall and loudly said, who wants to go to heaven?
“Twelve people got up and loudly chanted ‘Ya Hossein [the third Shiite Imam] and hail to Mojahed.’ After these 12 people got up, four or five others joined them. The guard who saw them said, ‘You’re speeding past each other to be executed?’ One of the prisoners said, ‘Yes. Do you know why? Because we’re Mojahed and you’re a Pasdar [Revolutionary Guard members loyal to Khomeini],’” Mehdizadeh said. “They weren’t afraid of being executed, and they were mocking the regime in its entirety. They did not fear death.”
“The prisoners broke their watches and glasses so that the guards have nothing to loot. They even ripped the banknotes they had in their pockets and their letter of will,” Mehdizadeh testified.
Then the guards came for him. “The guard took me into the hall and kept me standing at around 30 meters from the stage. From under my blindfold, I could see the bodies of executed prisoners piled up on each other on the stage,” he said. “I lost control. When the guard removed my blindfold, I saw 12 MEK supporters on the stage, standing on chairs and with nooses around their necks. The guards were carrying the dead bodies outside and showing them to each other. On one side of the stage were Nasserian, Davood Lashgari, and Hamid Abbasi [Noury], and on the other side were around 20 other guards.”
The prisoners, according to Mehdizadeh, chanted, “Long live Rajavi, Death to Khomeini!”
“As the prisoners shouted, Nasserian and his entourage were looking at them with stupefaction. Then suddenly, Nasserian snapped at Davood Lashgari, Abbasi, and the other guards, ‘These are monafeghs! What are you waiting for? Empty their chairs!” Mehdizadeh said. “As Nasserian started removing the chairs, Lasghari and Abbasi followed suit.”
“Soon after, I saw prisoners jumping off the chairs by themselves in defiance of the regime. Some of the guards punched the hanging bodies and shouted, ‘Death to monafegh.’ As I took in these scenes, I lost my control and balance. After a while, I noticed that someone was splashing water on my face,” he said while breaking into tears. “I decided I should get of this situation.”
After a brief pause, the court session on Friday continued. Mehdizadeh testified that he had witnessed a large group of people, nearly 100 prisoners in the “Death Hall.” He saw the guards holding on to prisoners after they were hanged, so the victims died faster.
According to Mehdizadeh, Lashgari asked questions from prisoners, and whoever identified himself as “MEK supporter” was lined up by Noury, and he took them to the “Death Hall.”
“When they were taken to the commission, it didn’t take more than a minute or two, and then they took them to the Death Corridor, where they were handed to Hamid Abbasi. Abbasi took them to the Death Hall in groups of 10 to 12,” he said.
“I was sitting in the ‘Death Corridor’ and saw they brought prisoners from everywhere. Someone came and sat near me. I asked him whether he had heard about the executions, and he said no,” Mehdizadeh said.
“I was sitting there for about an hour. I saw my friends going to the Death Hall. I was sitting there when Nasserian came to me and slowly whispered, ‘Crime?’ I wasn’t brave enough to say I’m a MEK supporter,” Mehdizadeh said while running into tears. “Then Abbasi [Noury] took me to the other side of the corridor.”
“There, I saw Kazem Sanat-Fard, who inquired about our friends, including Dr. Farzin [Nosrati]. Kazem was taken to Evin prison to be released. But he told me that [authorities] began executions on July 27 in Evin and had so far executed 200 to 400 people,” Mehdizadeh said.
Coinciding with the court session in Albania, several other political prisoners and family members of victims spoke to the press about the regime’s crimes.
On Friday, the MEK supporters and the families of victims held a protest rally in Sweden, where the trial of Hamid Noury began. They paid tribute to the martyrs of the 1988 massacre and called for the prosecution of all the regime officials involved in these crimes, including the current Iran regime’s president Ebrahim Raisi and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.